NICK: Nara and the psycho deer

Trip Start Jan 25, 2006
Trip End Feb 25, 2008

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Flag of Japan  ,
Monday, February 20, 2006

Oh how I love the rain.

And rain it does here in this island nation. It's insane how much rain does fall, if it rained this much back home there'd be flash floods and landslides.

On to Nara - Ash and I headed off to Nara to do a trip to Nara, a former capital of Japan as well as home to a lot of the culture of Japan.

After a 45 min train ride, and about 15 mins of walking, we found the tallest pagoda in Japan. Now, I'm not really too sure what's so great about these pagodas, other than they look really cool. I can't figure out if they hold anything inside of them or what. I do know that the construction supposedly revolves around a central beam that goes thru the center of the building. This allows the pagoda to swing during an earthquake. Maybe they're some sort of marvel of design.

Sorry, I think about these kinda things.

Since it was raining, and winter, there sure weren't many ppl poking around. The last time I was in Nara, there were tons of school kids running around looking at stuff. The best was when you heard them getting eaten by the blood thirsty deer.

Ok, so they're not exactly blood thirsty, but they're not the docile, peaceful, calm.... whatevers that they are in according to the saying.

The deer are famous in Nara because they're sacred as messengers of Buddha or something like that (I can't remember). Approximately 1200 of them roam the streets and are part of Nara's fame. They mostly stick to the parks and grassy areas, but there are a few that hang out in the tourist areas, waiting for ppl to buy them crackers.

As Ash and I found out, it doesn't take long for the deer to realize that you have them..

they simply wait.


And plotting... plotting, always plotting...yes...

well, watching the crackers in the little shop window, and plotting a grouping attack in which they use their super ninja powers they taught to the priests. These ninja powers result in devious attempts to get crackers from unsuspecting tourists. These moves include the Super HeadButt Nudge and the Iron Jaw Monkey Bite.

In short, they butt and bite you to get the crackers. Some can be quite vicious, while others were patient and gentle, well, like deer.

I bought a stack of crackers but was so terrified that the deer would attack that I ended up throwing the crackers to keep them from crowding around. The best part is when two males would just start smackin' heads together.. I guess they'd considered it a deer-version of Rock, Paper, Scissors. Still, it got me worried that I'd be next.

Ash took one cracker, but I wasn't able to get the camera ready before the deer got the cracker she was going to give to it.

After the deer-cracker shenanigans, we carefully tiptoed our way (deer make a lot of poop) to the gates of the temple. The Todaiji (Todai Temple) is the largest wooden structure in the world, and supposedly, the original burned down and this current one is 2/3rds the size. This temple is HUGE for being made of wood. The Buddha inside is pretty ginormous, too. On special festival days, they can open the front shutters so that ppl outside can see Buddha's head.

One thing that impresses me is that Japan has a lot of resources. How many other societies had as much access to wood, stone, water and food? I hear that metal is hard to come by, but still, this ability to build such awesome structures. This would also include the size of this gold and bronze buddha that is probably 4 stories tall. Europe is another land that was able to build amazing things, but they had so many invading factions in each land that the most amazing structures we've never even seen because they were destroyed.

Sorry, another thing I think about.

Apparently, on Buddha's left, there's a notch in one of the columns that has a hole in it. This hole is purportedly the size of Buddha's nostril (that's one big nostril) and those who will become enlightened (remember buddhism, rebirth, rebirth, rebirth, finally enlightenment and nirvana, if you play nice) will pass thru buddha's nostril.

The hole is huge. it hardly seems like much of a challenge, but it is intimidating since the column is about 3.5 ft in diameter - that's a long trip thru the center of that column. It looks like there have been ppl who have gotten stuck passing thru Buddha's nostril - I'd imagine that the shininess on the wood is from oil or butter that they might have tried to use to pull some guy who thought the hole was an optical illusion.

Since it's always better to regret something you have done, rather than something you haven't done, I decided to try it. After having squeezed thru the "Winnie-the-Pooh" hole 120 ft under the streets of Budapest, Hungary, this looked like cake. That hole was about the size of a small watermelon. This one was like a toaster oven turned sideways - no problem.

anyways, so I took some preventitive measures and took out everything from my pockets, my hat, my backpack, jacket, t-shirt, pants, underwear..

not really. just to my t-shirt.

But the embarrassment of the Japanese fire dept coming to pull a stupid american out of a column in a 500 year old temple did cross my mind.

So I went, and just passed thru. very easily.

then Ash did it, then we attracted a group of american art students who then wanted to try it. Then there were some old japanese ladies that put their coats down and looked like they wanted to try it (they later walked away).

We then went to the Kasuga shrine and wandered around the grounds. This place is beautiful - they have lanterns EVERYWHERE. There are about 3,000 to 4,000 of them, and they light them up a few times a year. We'd missed the lighting by a week or so, but it's sposed to be very pretty. And a difficult task, I'm sure.

then we walked around, found a 100 yen shop for some food, and got on the train back to Kyoto.

I don't know if I've talked about my obsession with 100 Yen shops. THEY ARE AMAZING!

(100 Yen is about 85 cents right now). In a 100Y shop, there are no prices on anything. they're all about 105 (that's with tax) and you can find the most amazing things in there. It's not like those old school pic-n-saves, where you got crap. They have dishes, stationery, food, slippers (for plodding around the house), cell phone accessories, burnable CD's, organizers, art supplies, random knick-knacks, chopsticks, art, origami paper, plastic shelving, clothing, children's clothes, curtain rods, handkerchiefs, shoeshine kits, etc.

And they all have different things! I love poking around in them to find what I can find. I just wish that shipping wasn't so expensive, I'd send crap back so I could have it for when i get back.

Ash laughs at me, but I love them!!

alright, over and out.
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